Going out (sans kiddos) in Birmingham, AL

Legwork, done. Going (and enjoying yourself), up to you…

~Kristine Gresh

Right off the bat and most importantly, you are not going to enjoy yourself if you are feeling guilty. So, shrug off any of it you’re feeling (I mean, you deserve this) and replace it with a fabulous pair of party shoes. Or that little black dress you haven’t worn in a while. Or your favorite jeans. Just put on something that makes you feel great, yet comfortable.

Now, leave the kids with someone you trust and don’t tell them you’ll be home by 10. A night out’s kiss of death is time-checking all night. Plus, some of the best moments tend to happen when you hang out for that third or fourth “last” cocktail or the end-of-the-night pancake stop.

Ok, time to head out the door. But where to go? Believe it or not, there are plenty of options in Birmingham…the challenge can be discovering them. Well, problem solved. Here are a few ideas, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Let’s skip “places to go for dinner” right now and concentrate on other types of night out options…

Let’s begin. Wine bars are a fabulous destination for either a romantic night with the darling husband, or a girls’ night out with a few of your ‘besties’. You can really chat in this setting, catch up on all things…that means kid stuff and non-kid stuff. Remember that opinions on politics and fashion are important too… not just bedtimes and feeding schedules. So, order a glass of wine or champagne, get comfortable and discuss. Check out one of these local establishments:

Wine Loft (2200 1st Ave North)

Ultra hip, modern, very “louge-y” and open with comfy couches, try their baked brie appetizer – it has a honey and balsamic drizzle and it’s downright splendid.

Wine’d Down (Patton Creek, Hoover)

A tad more casual, this place is great for trying a new wine, meeting up with a few friends last minute or grabbing a pre- or post-dinner cocktail.

26 (1210 20th St South)

Sibling restaurant to George Reis’ Ocean (next door) and not ‘technically’ a wine bar, their wine list is fantastic and they have a neat bar where you can sit and chat (great for a group of two or three), whether you’re waiting for a table or not.

Not in the mood for hip? It happens. Want to throw on a sweatshirt and just have a few chilly beers? You need a casual, not-at-all-intimidating bar. Luckily, they are plentiful in the Birmingham area. A few pretty stellar ones are:

J Clyde (1312 Cobb Lane South)

Best beer selection and most knowledgeable “beer staff,” this place will immediately make you feel comfortable and relaxed…as will their amazing selection of high-gravity beers.

Jacksons (1831 28th Ave South)

Jackson’s is a neat neighborhood bar in SoHo Square with a great appetizer menu, especially the buffalo feathers. Bonus: they have two magnificent drink specials (on Sundays bottles of wine are ½ price, on Tuesdays beer and well drinks (from 5pm to close) are ½ price.

Garage Café (2304 Tenth Terrace South)

The courtyard in the back (where you might see gargoyles, chunks of marble, old iron gates) is one of the funkiest spots in the city…and has helped earn the bar national acclaim. Garage Café is extremely laid back (quite possibly the most casual place on this list), and if you’re hungry, they will custom-make you a delicious sandwich. A real find in Birmingham.

All talked out? Just want to hear some great music in a place that seems made for such a thing? Got that covered too. (See, it’s getting harder to say “Oh, I just don’t know where to go in this city…”) Try on these for size:

Bottletree (3719 3rd Ave South)

Specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisine (but also offering meat!), this place exudes ‘musician’ and ‘artist’ vibes… and brings in some pretty impressive bands, all of whom seem to come back where they’re on tour again. Something is usually going on at Bottle Tree, so check the website…shows have been known to sell out.

Nana Funks (708 29th St South)

A joint in Lakeview that doesn’t get started until most of our kids have been sleeping for hours. Go here to dance. And dance. And dance. Go here because it’s hard to think “carpool” while doing your thing to Jay-Z.

Rogue Tavern (2312 2nd Ave North)

Rogue boasts a great stage, amazing sound system and a contemporary but comfortable feel. Big enough to not feel “squished” but somehow still warm and cozy, their atmosphere seems tailored to listening to music and hanging out. Also, it’s perfect if you have more than a few people in your posse one night.

Ok, chew on those ideas. And here’s one more: when you wake up with that inevitable headache in the morning because you don’t do this every night…hop over to Cosmos in 5 Points [Cosmos (2010 Magnolia Ave)] for some brunch and a little “hair of the dog.” Their make-your-own Bloody Mary bar will make you feel better…

Kristine Gresh is a freelance writer and…let’s say “beverage enthusiast…” (and a mom) who’s always on the hunt for fun things to do in Birmingham and beyond…

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